AN 18-MONTH pilot scheme which saw fire crews called to medical emergencies stopped yesterday after pay negotiations collapsed.

Now a senior councillor is seeking reassurances from the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) that services to the public won't suffer after the Fire Brigade Union (FBU) decided to cease trials of the scheme, called the Emergency Medical Response.

Councillor Ray Martin-Wells, chair of the North East Joint Health Scrutiny Committee and a Hartlepool councillor, has written to NEAS Chief Executive Yvonne Ormston after the Fire Brides Union said it would cease the trials.

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He said: "I am concerned about how this will affect the Ambulance Service, as the Committee are aware from a previous presentation to the Committee, that NEAS are supportive of the co-responding and would like to see it continue as it has been very successful.

“I would be very grateful if you could provide the Committee with an update on how NEAS plan to manage when this service is ceased, including what other resources will be put in place to ensure ambulance performance does not deteriorate and therefore place patients at risk.”

The FBU made the decision at a national level after it was unable to secure a two per cent annual pay rise for firefighters from Government.

Firefighters have been called to almost 9,000 medical emergencies in the North-East, such as heart attacks and strokes, since the pilot scheme began in January 2016. There were 4,336 in County Durham and Darlington and 3,354 in Cleveland.

Under the EMR scheme, firefighters co-respond alongside ambulance staff to medical incidents.

Chief Operating Officer from North East Ambulance Service (NEAS), Paul Liversidge said, ““We have worked closely with our Fire Service colleagues to make the Emergency Medical Response (EMR) trial a success across the North East. We are disappointed to see it end.

“The trial was never about improving ambulance service performance. Each time we deployed a fire resource to a patient, we also always dispatched a NEAS paramedic as back-up. This was intended to improve outcomes for patients by receiving early interventions like CPR on occasions when the fire service could reach a patient faster than us."

He said Loftus, Skelton and Saltburn fire stations could continue to provide EMR due to a pre-existing agreement.

“We are also currently expanding our Community First Responders and community defibrillators. We will continue to work with our Fire Service colleagues to identify any future opportunities for joint working to the benefits of our patients.”